Over There: Part 2
I said last time that the final part of Fringe season two would have to go some to top the penultimate. It did. It went all the way and hit it out of the park (and then some). The episode itself is a remarkably enjoyable piece of sci-fi action but coupled with all the nuggets of information shared with us, novel interactions and general exposition regarding the two worlds it just aces everything. Then we have the epilogue – an old trick for sure, but one that still knocked me off my seat. Fabulous.
The whole of the second season of Fringe has been a wonderful experience. The first season was enjoyable enough hokum with an old school vibe played out via standalone episodes and a few mythology focussed narratives teasing us regarding an alternate universe which we finally saw at the end. You got the impression that as a new show it was playing safe. Not going too crazy too early in fear of dwindling ratings and cancellation mid-season or no second year. Fortunately this didn’t happen and the writers grew in confidence, they spent more time developing the two-world idea and the dynamics set from the point Walter first crossed over – the damage that caused the alterniverse, the kidnapping of Walternate’s son and his struggles to get him back, and ultimately the sight of his endgame – destroy their world. They were able to expand the background, exposit more with regard to the sci-fi double-world / Observer aspect of everything. The relationships were developed, subtle undercurrents of tension and desire put in place (Peter & Dunham’s Mulder and Scully impression, Walter’s hatred for Belly and so on) and everything just kept moving consistently upwards on a seemingly exponential curve where the Y-axis was brilliance. It’s been great to watch, every episode has delivered on multiple counts and this final hour-long was the culmination of all which was set in place over the previous 22 episodes. Boom.
William Bell had a significant part to play in this episode, both in actions and screen time. His interplay with Walter was great to see. We’ve known for a while that Walter seems to hate Belly these days, nominally for splitting their partnership and forming Massive Dynamic where he can exploit the alterniverse technology for profit, but also for stealing his memories and 17 years of his life (in the mental institute) when he cut out three parts of his brain. They come across as a Statler & Waldorf, grumpy old men type pair with a genius intellect and almost psychic understanding of what each other is talking about when they spout gobbledegook about particle accelerator based doorstops and so on. Great fun. But also important – Fringe is big on relationships and it takes the time to build them so everything that happens as a result fits. We can see the energy these guys give to each other and what they can accomplish is far beyond anything either can alone. We also see complete honesty between the two – Belly is not afraid to tell Walter all the depression and damage in the alterniverse is his fault. Eventually we learn that Walter asked for his brain to be operated on. Probably because he knew what it could be used for, but as to whether he’d predicted the personal ramifications for which he blames Bell is not understood. With this revelation I suspect the hatred he has for Belly will dissipate. Especially given the personal sacrifice Belly makes to send everyone back to their world at the end (assuming he is now gone and it was a sacrifice – we can’t be sure the Fringe science suggesting his atoms will all split and not recombine is final).
We knew Peter was special. That much has been made abundantly clear over time. His reason for being special seems to be his unique symbiotic relationship with the seemingly alien tech. which it transpires, would lead to the end of our world. Fortunately, Dunham gets to him to explain this before anything can happen. She persuades him to come back at the same time, by expressing they should be together, and share a kiss. About time too. It’s been there since season 1, although rarely in your face. It makes a change not to go down the Moonlighting or X-Files route and leave the attraction as just an attraction until near the end (I’m assuming Fringe will have more than 3 seasons...). Aside from the fact it’s the perfect plot device to make Peter come back to where he’s lived all his adult life, getting it out in the open so early means fans have less chance to keep focussing on it and wishing for it over time such that when/if it finally does happen it makes everything feel flat.
I liked Dunham as a redhead. It’s a nice change for a character that originally was situated dead centre of Fringe but this season has been pushed aside for Peter, and ultimately Walter to take the main stage. This needs to remain in place, but Dunham has a big part to play too and a change or five to the way she plays will keep things fresh.
There were some nice touches in the alterniverse, such as the different comic book stories. It’s a theme throughout the episode, unsurprisingly – what is the same and what’s different between the two worlds. Peter suggests it’s very similar on the surface with some subtle differences but we see that this isn’t always the case. Walternate is Secretary of Defence in this world! Peter realises soon enough Red Dunham is actually quite different from the one he knows. This case is driven one suspects by the lack of any experimenting with Cortexaphan or similar as a child – AltBelly died a young man and never met with Walternate, therefore no studies will have been performed by the pair. These Cortexaphan experiments are what will have made Olivia the ‘haunted’ woman she is today, and explain why the Red Dunham has a relationship, seems very happy and is how she is.
So, to the epilogue. It’s an old trick, and something we could have all imagined was coming. Red Dunham travelled back to our world, having switched with our Dunham (at the point at which a phosphorous grenade was used, presumably). I hadn’t clicked it had happened, which made the reveal at the end spine-tingling for me. I tend to get caught up in quality like this and enjoy the moment, so I never saw the obvious switch happen. But it did, and my word that sets things up nicely for next season. How will Red Dunham keep her cover considering the difference in her and our Olivia? Will Peter cotton on given he’s now expecting some kind of relationship to truly form between the pair? What can we expect of our Dunham in the alterniverse? She’s locked up in a white cell under orders from Walternate. She is not getting out easily but then we heard in this episode Belly suggest to Walter she is the greatest thing they have ever accomplished. We will see the coming of Olivia, the growth of her true powers and likely more next season. We will have to see more of Walternate and co. given the swaps between the two worlds apparent. What a wonderful set of thoughts – infiltration by the baddies in the good guy’s set-up, more of the alterniverse and Walternate, the coming of Olivia. Fantastic. Roll on season three!